5 Things I’ve Learned from (Finally) Trying Watercolours

I’ve had watercolour paints and pencils for… well, too long considering that I’ve only really just gotten around to using them. This is a quick list of things I’ve learned from using these watercolours and from understanding why I was so hesitant to start using them sooner.

Just do it

Sometimes you really just need to push yourself to give something a go. If you wait around for some kind of inspiration to strike or the perfect circumstances to come your way, you just may never start. Sometimes you just need to grab some paper, pick a colour, and combine the two.

There is such a thing as too much water

This is something I’m still getting the hang of (hey, I only just started with this medium, after all). But yes, despite the name ‘watercolours’, there is definitely such a thing as too much water. The amount of water used can impact the opacity of the colour; the amount of bleeding that can occur in the colours; the distribution of the pigment (that is, how even the colour looks); and how well the colours blend together.

You don’t have to wait for the best materials to come your way

While good quality materials can certainly help to take an artwork to the next level, cheaper materials that you are able to get your hands on are still definitely better than nothing! If cheap watercolour paper, a cheap old watercolour palette, and some random paintbrushes are all you have, then you can go ahead and use them. If you wait around too afraid to begin until you get the perfect materials, you just might never start. Start anyway, have fun with it, and develop your skills with what you have.

Wait for each layer to dry before beginning the next

This one is hard for me because once I get started on something, I just want to keep going and going. Sometimes it feels like it takes 30 seconds to paint a layer and 30 minutes for it to dry! I will admit, however, that that is a bit of an exaggeration. However, if you don’t wait for the layers to dry fully before adding a new layer, you could end up lifting paint off from the previous layers or cause the paper to shed.

Rainbow gradient in watercolour paints

Wet the paper first for cool gradients and blending

When looking at watercolour paintings, I often notice gorgeous gradients with colours seemingly fading off into the distance. I always wondered how that look was achieved and I think I’ve discovered the answer: I believe it to be the technique known as ‘wet-in-wet’ painting. Note that the technique has many different names.

And finally a bonus: everyone starts somewhere. Like with any kind of art, everyone will be at different stages in terms of their skills and style. It can be beneficial to look at others’ art to gain inspiration and to observe techniques used, and even to motivate yourself to be better. But the key is making an effort to not allow others’ skills and art to make you feel inadequate.

Art is supposed to be fun, after all, so have fun with it!


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